Welcome to Legal Studies

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Why Legal Studies?

In the past 50 years, the role of the judicial branch (the court system) in American life has greatly expanded.  One possible use for a political science degree is as a springboard to a law-related path, which might involve attending law school, or getting directly involved in another aspect of the judicial branch such as court administration or forensic social work, among others.  Given the judicial system's increased importance, even students who intend to work within the legislative or executive branch would be better prepared with a firm understanding of the interactions between those branches and the judicial branch.  Moreover, many traditional fields outside of politics often intersect with the law.   Thus businesspeople, for example, can greatly benefit from studying the judicial branch's impact on developing, interpreting, and enforcing laws that may affect one's business.  Regardless of one's first career path, all undergraduates would benefit from understanding how law influences politics and vice versa. 

Students choosing to take legal studies courses have the opportunity to obtain a solid foundation in the relationship between politics and public law.  The department’s legal studies courses focus on:

  1. the role of the Constitution in structuring the relationship between the judicial, executive and legislative branches, and between the federal courts and state courts;
  2. the roles of the Constitution and the courts in creating and sustaining civil rights and civil liberties;
  3. the internal workings of the judicial branch;
  4. the political interactions between the judicial branch with the executive and legislative branches; and
  5. the theory and philosophy behind judicial and political activities.

Legal Studies Courses Help to Develop Skills

Whether a student's immediate career path is law school, other graduate studies, or the professional world, legal studies courses help students develop practical skills including:

  • Critical Reading - the ability to read and evaluate primary and secondary texts containing sophisticated social science ideas, theories, and legal analysis
  • Critical Thinking -- the ability to find commonalities between similar circumstances and to distinguish new circumstances from past ones based on relevant factors
  • Argument and Persuasion - the ability to use logic and evidence to build a persuasive argument
  • Written and Verbal Communications - the ability to organize one's thoughts so as to successfully communicate ideas clearly both on paper and through oral presentations

Law School Preparation

Students thinking about law school frequently ask what specific courses they should take in order to best position themselves for admission to, and success in, law school.  Law schools do not require any particular courses as pre-requisites for admission.  However, law schools admission committees generally choose students whose undergraduate studies involved both rigorous intellectual exercise and complex analytical writing, and who have demonstrated a sincere interest in studying the law.  Success within legal studies courses will generally suggest to admissions committees that a student has both the ability to master the academic challenges faced in law school and an appropriate level of interest in the subject matter.

More information on the Department's Legal Studies course options, internships, and applying to law school is available through the pages listed on the upper right-hand corner of this page.  In addition, Justin Wedeking, the Department’s Legal Studies Advisor, welcomes the opportunity to provide individualized guidance to any Political Science major.

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